How To Choose a CRM: Finding The Best Solution For Your Unique Needs


Choosing the right CRM system for your business can be a daunting task. With so many options available, it's easy to get overwhelmed and make the wrong choice. However, the right CRM system can be a game-changer for your business, helping you to streamline processes, improve communication, and increase revenue.

In this article, we'll provide you with 8 steps to help you choose the right CRM system for your unique business needs. No matter if you are a complete beginner or a pro looking to build your very own CRM from scratch, these tips will get you covered.

8 steps to choose a CRM system for your business

Step 1: Identify your goals and needs

Switching to a new CRM is a significant undertaking that requires time, effort, and money. Therefore, it's better to think it through beforehand. As with any other project, you need to start with the question of "Why?". 

Why do you need CRM

Why do you need a CRM?

A CRM can help you solve existing problems and seize new opportunities. To get started, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Problems: What are the biggest bottlenecks in your sales process right now?
  • Opportunities: What are your business goals?

Typical bottlenecks in the sales process can include forgetting to follow up with leads, losing track of communication with existing customers, and difficulty in tracking and analyzing sales data. Other issues may include a lack of organization in the sales pipeline, difficulty in prioritizing leads, and a lack of insight into customer behavior and preferences.

Typical business goals may include increasing revenue, improving customer satisfaction and retention, streamlining processes, reducing costs, expanding into new markets, and gaining a competitive edge. 

It’s best to work on these questions with your colleagues. You will need input from all stakeholders, including management and colleagues who will be using the CRM. Consider arranging a workshop to brainstorm the problems and opportunities together.

Step 2: Decide on the important features

Once you know the goals and problems that need to be solved, it’s time to think about how CRM can help. You can do that by translating your problems and opportunities into requirements and features. Here is an example:

  • Problems: forgetting to follow up on leads
  • CRM features: tasks with reminders, automated workflows

By creating a comprehensive list of features that are relevant to your business, you can identify the CRM capabilities that will be most useful. In some cases, you may not know which CRM features can help you with a particular challenge or opportunity, and additional research may be required.

However, this approach will enable you to formulate targeted questions for Google (or an experienced colleague). For example, you could ask "How can a CRM streamline sales processes?" and expect to receive thorough answers.

By the end of this task, you will end up with a laundry list of features, so it will be useful to prioritize them. You can divide features into three categories:

  • must have
  • nice to have
  • maybe later

You can evaluate CRM features based on the value you expect them to bring to your business.

Also, once you start researching solutions and trying them out, chances are you will probably return to this step and add a few features or shift things around in your prioritization table.

Step 3: Select the type of CRM that will work best for you

There are two types of CRM systems: mass-market and specialized. Mass-market systems are solutions with a more or less standard functionality to cater to a wide audience of users. They are designed to be versatile and flexible and can be used across multiple industries.

Select the type of CRM that will work best for you

On the other hand, specialized CRM systems are created for a particular industry and have features tailored to the specific needs of that industry. For example, CRM systems for the healthcare industry may have specific features for managing patient data and compliance with regulations, while CRM systems for the real estate industry may have features for managing property listings and transactions.

Mass-market CRM examples: Pipedrive, ZohoCRM, Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Insightly, Agile CRM, Freshsales, Copper, and Capsule CRM.

Specialized CRM examples:

  • Real estate: Propertybase, Zoho CRM for Real Estate, Top Producer, Wise Agent, IXACT Contact, Contactually
  • Non-profit: Bloomerang, DonorPerfect, Kindful, NeonCRM, Little Green Light, Salsa CRM
  • Healthcare: Kareo, SimplePractice, AdvancedMD, DrChrono, WebPT, NextGen Healthcare

When deciding between a specialized or mass-market CRM solution, consider the specific needs of your business. If your business operates in a niche industry with specific requirements, a specialized solution may be a better fit.

However, if your business operates in a more general industry, a mass-market software may be more cost-effective and easier to implement. Ultimately, the decision depends on your business goals, budget, and the specific features and functionality you require from a CRM system.

Step 4: Check out review and comparison websites

Review and comparison websites such as G2 and Capterra offer a wealth of information on various CRM systems, making them a great starting point for anyone looking to find the right solution for their business. These websites allow you to compare features and pricing, read real reviews from current users, and get a sense of what a particular CRM system has to offer.

Here are some good review websites where you can find your CRM options:

One of the biggest benefits of using review websites is that they provide verified reviews from other businesses and organizations that have already implemented the CRM systems you are considering. Reading reviews from people who have used the systems can give you a clearer picture of the pros and cons of each system, helping you make a more informed decision about which one is the best fit for your business.

These websites also allow you to compare different CRM systems side by side, making it easier to understand the differences and similarities between them. This can be particularly helpful when you are trying to weigh the pros and cons of different features and functionalities.

Another advantage of using review websites is that they often provide pricing information, which can help you narrow down your options based on your budget. You can compare the pricing of different CRM systems and see what you get for your money, which can help you to make a more informed decision about which system to choose.

Evaluate CRM systems, choose the ones that match most or all of your requirements, and create a table of them with prices and conditions.

Pro tip: Usually, these websites will display sponsored listings first, as their filters are set to "Sponsored" by default. To get a more honest list, select a filter by ratings or price instead.

Step 5: Try before buying

Trying different CRM systems before choosing one is an important step in the process of selecting the best CRM solution for your business. The reason why it is important to try different systems is that each system has its own unique features, usability, and limitations. By trying out different systems, you can get a better understanding of how each system works and which one is the best fit for your business.

Try before buying CRM

One of the important aspects of trying different systems is that it allows you to get a sense of how each system functions and how easy it is to navigate. This is particularly important for your team's adoption and usage of the system.

If the system is too difficult to use, it may cause frustration among your team members and lead to a lack of adoption. By trying different systems, you can identify which system has a user interface that is most suitable for your team's needs and preferences.

Additionally, trying different systems can help you identify any potential issues or limitations that may not have been apparent during the initial research phase. For example, some systems may not be able to integrate with other software that your business uses, or may not have the necessary features to meet your specific needs.

By trying different systems, you can identify these limitations and make a more informed decision about which system will provide the best value and return on investment for your business.

Furthermore, trying different systems can help you to compare and contrast different CRM solutions side by side. This comparison can be particularly helpful when you are trying to weigh the pros and cons of different features and functionalities. You can evaluate different systems based on their strengths and weaknesses, and choose the one that best meets your business requirements.

Step 6: Choose one, but be flexible

The trial period is great for opening Pandora’s box and seeing what’s inside, however, it is not the same as using the system in daily work with real data and use cases. So, it is important to stay flexible and agile even after you’ve made the final choice. Accept that it can be not so final and give yourself the freedom to change your mind down the road.

This is especially important if you have little experience with CRM systems, or if your business is new and evolving. In such cases, it may be wise to avoid making significant commitments to highly customized solutions or paying upfront for a full year.

Mistakes to avoid when choosing a CRM for small business

Overcomplicating things

Continuing from the previous point, it rarely makes sense to start with a complicated CRM system that has all the bells and whistles right away. As a beginner, you probably won't need all the complex features and can simply focus on basic contact management and emailing.

Based on personal experience, I found that Google Sheets was the best first CRM for me. It allowed me to determine what customer data I needed to keep and what functionality I really required (instead of using whatever was offered).

After working (struggling) with Google Sheets for a few weeks, I switched to a free CRM. It already provided a significant improvement and was sufficient for another year, until our client base grew and we needed to add more automation. That was when we began searching for a new CRM.

Low-cost or free solutions can help you identify your actual needs in practice instead of relying on assumptions.

Treat CRM as an investment, not an expense

When thinking of how much to spend on a new CRM, it’s best to remember that it is an investment rather than an expense. This will help you to consider what you can gain with a new tool, not just how much you have to spend.

As with any investment, it is successful when the return is greater than the investment (positive ROI). Here are some returns you can expect from investing in a CRM:

  • Improved conversion, because no leads are lost or forgotten
  • Employees spend less time on manual activities, like data entry, call scheduling, follow-ups, reporting etc., leaving more time for selling
  • Better decision-making through access to real-time data and insights
  • Improved collaboration and communication between departments and teams
  • Enhanced customer experience through better support and issue resolution
  • Increased revenue through upselling and cross-selling opportunities
  • Improved forecasting and planning through accurate data analysis and reporting

All of this leads to more sales with a lower cost per customer. You will be able to track such positive changes throughout a couple of months to a year and even calculate the ROI of your CRM (Increase in sales due to a CRM - CRM cost=ROI)

Compensating the lack of strategy with a CRM

Introducing a CRM without having a clear strategy and well-optimized business processes in place can do more harm than good to a business. It is essential to have a solid system of work that includes streamlined sales funnels, well-defined sales stages, and a clear understanding of what needs to be done at each stage. If a business does not have these processes in place, a CRM can only digitize chaos.

Not getting everyone on board

Getting your team on board with the idea of a CRM is crucial for the success of the implementation. If your team members do not understand the purpose and benefits of the CRM, they may not use it or use it only formally, and the project will lose its meaning.

It is important to involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process, such as management and colleagues who will be using the CRM.

What if you won’t find a perfect match?

Sometimes, it's possible that there isn't a perfect CRM solution for your business. That's because every business is unique, and has its own set of requirements, goals and challenges. In such cases, you may have to consider building your own CRM from scratch.

What if you won’t find a perfect match?

Building a CRM from scratch may seem daunting, but it can be a viable option if you have the necessary technical expertise and resources. 

If you decide to build your own CRM, it's important to keep in mind that this is a significant undertaking that will require time, effort, and resources. You'll need to have a solid understanding of your business requirements, as well as the technical expertise to build and maintain the CRM system.

However, building your own CRM can also provide you with a customized solution that meets all of your business needs, and can be a valuable asset for your business in the long run.


Choosing the right CRM system for your business can be a daunting task, but it can be a game-changer for your business.

Follow these 8 steps to help you choose the right CRM system for your unique business needs, including identifying your goals and needs, deciding on important features, selecting the type of CRM that will work best for you, checking out review and comparison websites, trying before buying, being flexible with your choices, and even building your own CRM from scratch if necessary.

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